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GumboBC 06-06-2004 01:03 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
I came across this article on the Jaguars defense and how they were able to rise from the 25th ranked run defense to the 2nd raked run defense in ONE year! And from the 20th ranked overall defense to the 6th overall defense in ONE year. I think there are a lot of similarities between the Jags and the Saints defense. I found this series of articles to be very informing. Del Rio and co. were able to take basically the same players and form a very good defensive unit. Notice the emphasis was on stopping the run and using the cover 2 and cover 3 to make up for a lack of quality CBs This might not be for everyone but I hope some of you enjoy it.

Part 1

Fundamental strategies
By Vic Ketchman, senior editor

(May 11)—It didn't take Mike Smith long to identify what would be the strength of his Jaguars defense. Defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson stood out as the best of what was left from the 20th-ranked defense the Tom Coughlin regime left behind, and that was fine with Smith and Jack Del Rio because the defensive system they embraced is built on stopping the run.

Those conclusions were reached shortly after Del Rio replaced Coughlin as Jaguars head coach and Smith became the team's new defensive coordinator. As the new coaching staff's offices were being remodeled, personnel evaluations were also underway, and reviews were mixed. Stroud and Henderson represented a couple of cornerstones, but there were gaps in between.

Del Rio and Smith decided they would remain basic in their scheme and work hardest on player development and the application of the talent that was available to them. In short, they knew they could stop the run but rushing the passer and defending the pass would be more difficult.

“What's more important, the scheme or the players? The players. You want your scheme to fit your players,� Smith said of what the Jaguars defensive staff did last season.

They used Stroud and Henderson much as the Ravens used Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams in 2000; to dominate the middle of the line of scrimmage and force double-teams that keep blockers off the linebackers and allow them to penetrate, disrupt and, ultimately, make the tackle.

In the secondary, however, the Jaguars were not able to play Ravens-like defense. The Jaguars lacked the pass-rush to play pressure coverages. No gambling for the Jaguars last season; they lacked the pass-rush to limit the quarterback's time, or the man-to-man coverage skills to add blitzers to the rush.

What to do? The answer was simple.

Behind the 4-3 defensive front that is the foundation of Del Rio's and Smith's shared defensive philosophy, the Jaguars played the cautious “cover two� and “cover three� pass-defense schemes that are the most popular coverages in the game today.

You've heard the term: “Cover two.� Everybody knows it's Tony Dungy's defense, but “cover two� was being played in the NFL long before Dungy was even a player. It's as simple as they come: Two half-field defenders and five guys underneath.

In “cover two,� the two safeties are positioned deep and just outside the hash marks. Each safety is responsible for his deep half of the field. Meanwhile, the underneath coverage consists of two corners responsible for jamming the wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, then falling off into zone coverage in the flat areas. At the same time, the three linebackers have dropped about 10 yards, forming a wall of defenders across the field.

“The theory is that it's a re-route defense and you want to disrupt the receivers running downfield,� Smith said. “The cornerbacks are responsible for jamming the receiver and forcing him to the inside. It allows you to force the ball to get checked down (thrown short). It takes away the deep ball.�

Sounds great, right? Yeah, but it all starts with stopping the run with your down linemen because you don't have that eighth man in the box to help against the run. “Cover two� is a pass-defense for teams with strong defensive linemen who don't require help, and that's just what Del Rio and Smith decided they had. The Jaguars' strength was up front.

So, how did the Jaguars so dramatically improve their defensive ranking last year; from 20th to sixth overall? By improving from 25th to second in run-defense. That's how.

This season, the Jaguars will be more sophisticated schematically. Smith believes offseason personnel upgrades will deepen the team's scheme. Last year, personnel limitations restricted the Jaguars to “cover three� as its changeup defense.

What's “cover three?� Some might say it's a great high school defense.

In “cover three,� one safety joins the two cornerbacks to form a three-deep alignment. The other safety, usually the strong safety, joins the three linebackers to create four underneath. In other words, “cover three� is two picket fences behind a four-man front. What it lacks in that extra underneath pass-defender, “cover three� provides in the way of an extra run-defender or eighth man in the box. It's a good defense against the run and the pass, but it's very conservative.

Want something risky? Here are two you might like.

“Cover one� and “cover zero� are man-to-man pass-defenses. They are intense pressure coverage schemes.

In “cover one,� a fifth pass-rusher is added and there's a safety stationed in the middle of the field to help ease the cornerbacks' deep burden. In “cover zero,� a sixth rusher is added and the safety is subtracted from the middle of the field. In “cover zero,� the rush either has to get “home� or you better have Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson as your corners.

You don't like that kind of risk? That's to be understood, and if you're really conservative in nature, “cover four� is your baby.

“Cover four� is four deep and three underneath. It is the most basic of all zone pass-defenses and is affectionately known as “quarters.�

The bottom line is that all of the conservative pass-defenses can be effective, provided you can stop the run with your down linemen. The more defenders who may be committed to the pass, the better the pass-defense will be. Del Rio's and Smith's defensive scheme last year was built on that up-front principle.

In their 4-3 alignment, the defensive tackles are responsible for jamming the inside running lanes by occupying blockers. With that having been accomplished, the three linebackers are responsible for “scraping� to the ball and making the tackle. The defensive ends set the edge of the defense.

The other popular defensive front used in today's game is the 3-4, which employs a nose tackle, two defensive ends and four linebackers. The nose tackle's job is to defeat the center and force a double-team from one of the guards. The defensive ends stuff the OT/TE gap and hold the point. In the 3-4, the defensive linemen are not responsible for disrupting the play. That task falls on the linebackers, who are usually fast and aggressive types capable of forcing the action and making the play. The chief advantage of the 3-4 is that it causes greater confusion in the offense's blocking scheme because the 3-4 can alter its alignment so dramatically.

These are the basic defensive formations used in today's pro game. They represent only a fraction of all defenses, which include “nickel,� “dime� and other substitution packages that will be the subject of a future “Defense 101� installment.

Now, here are some basic defensive terms you might find useful:

• Stunt—Change in the charge of a defensive lineman, who lines up in one gap and then charges through another.

• Stem—The pre-snap movement of a defensive lineman from one position to another.

• Dog—A fifth rusher.

• Games—Looping or twisting by two defensive linemen working in tandem during a pass-rush.

• Squat corner—A “cover two� cornerback; one who “squats� or “sits down� in the flat area. Right cornerbacks are often used in that capacity.

• Mike—Middle linebacker in 4-3 or strongside inside linebacker in 3-4.

• Mo—Weakside inside linebacker in 3-4.

• Will—Weakside outside linebacker in 3-4 or 4-3; usually lined up on side opposite tight end.

• Sam—Strongside outside linebacker in 3-4 or 4-3; usually lined up on tight end side.

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

GumboBC 06-06-2004 01:04 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
Part 2

Del Rio guaranteed it
By Vic Ketchman, senior editor

Jack Del Rio\'s tone of voice suggested he was making more than a promise. He was almost threatening.

“We WILL stop the run,� Del Rio said of his defense last summer, before anyone believed that what was about to take place was even remotely possible.

Del Rio inherited a run-defense that was a lowly 25th in the league in 2002. He also inherited two mammoth defensive tackles and signed a pricey middle linebacker in free agency, but nobody expected the radical improvement that would follow.

Though the Jaguars played a schedule that included four of the league\'s top six and 12 of the top 16 running backs, the Jaguars allowed only one running back to rush for 100 yards, and that in the first game of the year when Stephen Davis gained 111 yards.

By season\'s end, the Jaguars owned the NFL\'s second-ranked run-defense, and that left “experts� scratching their heads to explain the dramatic improvement. How had they gotten so good so fast?

It all began with Del Rio\'s promise, or threat. It all began with a new dedication to stopping the run. Under Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mike Smith, stopping the run was priority number one.

“The importance of stopping the run is you have the ability to dictate to the offense that they\'re going to have to throw the football, and they become one-dimensional. When a team is able to be balanced between run and pass, it makes it more difficult to defend,� Smith said.

“Offenses that are able to run the football dictate the tempo of the game. There\'s nothing more discouraging than to have a team consistently run the football and move down the field. It\'s a slow death. The old three yards and a cloud of dust is the most frustrating thing for defensive coaches and players,� he added.

Immediately, Del Rio and Smith began hammering that philosophy into the heads of their defensive players. They promised to arm those players with an attack-style strategy, but they also emphasized the expectation that stopping the run WILL be the result, or else.

“The techniques and philosophies we installed were more of an attacking style for our defenders than read-and-react. They were more of a read-and-react and we are more of an attacking defense up front,� Smith said in comparing the philosophies of the Tom Coughlin regime to what the Jaguars would be under Del Rio.

“Our mantra for our defensive linemen is we\'re going to attack, neutralize the blocker and disengage. The way our defense is designed, it\'s all based on gap integrity, so we\'re not going to give up big runs. It\'s an attacking, aggressive, gap-controlled defense. Everyone has a gap they must control. If anything comes through the hole, they take it,� Smith added. “The theory of read and react is you build a wall and you may not give up an explosive run.�

So, it\'s the scheme that gets all of the credit, huh? Well, not exactly. A lot of teams employ attack-style gap defenses. Some of the league\'s worst run-defenses attack the gaps. In fact, attacking the gaps is a good way to go to the bottom of the run-defense rankings, because doing it the wrong way will yield a lot of long runs.

The Jaguars didn\'t rise to the top of the league\'s run-defense rankings as a result of their scheme. They rose to the top of the league rankings for these three reasons:

1. Their ability to teach and install their scheme.

2. The players\' ability to execute the scheme.

3. Careful attention to the tendencies and predictabilities of opposing offenses.

“I don\'t think it\'s a unique system,� Smith said of the Jaguars\' gap-defense scheme. “The way it\'s installed and is taught is unique. We believe we have a special way of doing it. We try to keep it simple and allow our players to play fast. We don\'t want them thinking; we want them reacting to the keys to which they\'re supposed to be reacting.�

In executing the scheme, discipline is of the utmost importance. Every gap must be manned. Breakdowns result in long runs, and the Jaguars weren\'t guilty of many breakdowns last season. The five runs of 15 yards or more the Jaguars allowed last season ranked as the third-fewest in the league. The Jaguars allowed a mere 3.18 yards per rushing attempt; the number one run-defense, Tennessee, allowed 3.79 yards per rush.

But maybe it was Del Rio\'s and Smith\'s preparation that was the biggest player in the Jaguars\' success. The two coaches and the Jaguars defensive staff spend a lot of time charting the opposition\'s run/pass tendencies, and their ability to put their defenders in the right defense at the right time was a major player in the Jaguars defense\'s success.

“We\'re not guessing. We\'re playing the percentages. Usually the good teams are predictable. You know what they\'re going to do and you have to prepare your players and give them a scheme that gives them an advantage,� Smith said.

“The first thing you have to be able to do is commit enough defenders to the line of scrimmage. How much is enough? Eight,� Smith added.

That\'s the goal of nearly every good run-defense; to get that eighth man in the box. But it has to be done in a way that doesn\'t leave the pass-defense vulnerable.

“It\'s all a numbers game. If you put an eighth man down in the box, you\'ve got one more man than they can account for. The eighth man on offense is the running back. He has to make the eighth man miss. They can\'t block everybody,� Smith said. “You run stunts and games for the disruption of the blocking patterns. That\'s another way to be disruptive.�

And it all worked. The Jaguars finished last season with the highest run-defense ranking in team history.

“You can\'t have the kind of defense we want to have here without having the ability to stop the run. The theory behind our defense is you have to stop the run first. You develop a toughness, you have to be good tacklers and you develop your pursuit skills,� Smith said.

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

GumboBC 06-06-2004 01:05 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
Part 3

Must win on third down
By Vic Ketchman, senior editor

Ask any defensive coordinator which is his favorite pass-rush scheme, and he\'ll tell you it\'s the four-man rush.

You bet it is. Who doesn\'t like having seven pass-defenders covering four receivers? If you can get “home� with four guys, that\'s the way to go, baby.

But if your four down linemen aren\'t the equal of the “Fearsome Foursome� or the “Steel Curtain,� you\'ll probably have to consider some other pass-rush schemes. After all, this is the modern game, and you don\'t win in this league by giving the quarterback all day to throw.

“The importance of the pass-rush is that you want to force the quarterback to throw the ball before his receivers have gotten to the proper depth of their routes,� Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “It\'s most important on third down. You\'re off the field if you win on third down, and our offense is back on the field.�

At that defensive pursuit last season, the Jaguars fell considerably short of the high level of performance their run-defense established. The same defense that was number two in the league against the run was number 31 in third-down defense. Only Arizona was worse at getting opposing offenses off the field on third down.

“We were terrible. We have to improve our third-down efficiency. The pass-rush was a contributing factor,� Smith admitted.

The Jaguars\' 24 sacks were fourth-worst in the league and second-worst in team history, and the team wasn\'t able to address its need at defensive end this offseason as fully as it would\'ve liked. If the Jaguars are going to make strides forward from their 5-11 season in 2003, they\'ll have to find a way to improve their pass-rush, and that could fall heaviest on Smith\'s and head coach Jack Del Rio\'s combined ability to creatively utilize the personnel available to them.

“We feel like we\'ve added some young guys with some speed. Schematically, what we did last year was very basic, and we feel like we can do some things schematically to enhance our pass-rush,� Smith said.

For example, the Jaguars added speed at linebacker, bolstered the cornerback position and drafted a “tweener� Del Rio refers to as a DPR (designated pass-rusher). What we may find out this season is how many schemes Del Rio and Smith have in their heads, because it\'s very doubtful the Jaguars will get “home� with a four-man rush.

Actually, it\'s doubtful any team is going to get home with four guys. “The difficulty is the majority of offenses are going to commit six players to protection; five linemen and either a back or a tight end. That means two guys are going to be double-teamed. You have to win the one-on-ones,� Smith said of getting “home� with a four-man rush.

Contrary to what most fans might believe is true, there just aren\'t a lot of pass-rush schemes available. There\'s four-man, five-man, six-man and zone-blitz. That\'s about it. Terms such as “safety blitz� and “corner fire� are nothing more than variations of five-man and six-man pass-rush schemes.

When it comes to rushing the passer, it\'s not so much a matter of how many come, but, rather, from where do they come? Confusing the offensive blocking schemes is what creates open lanes to the quarterback, and he must go down, and he must go down hard.

Let\'s examine those pass-rush schemes.

Fifth rusher—He\'s either a linebacker or a defensive back. The object is to force the offense to identify him. You show a linebacker in the pre-snap, then drop him into coverage and shoot the safety. It can work; offensive linemen have been known to be a little slow between the ears. And you still have six guys in pass-defense. Nice concept, but it doesn\'t carry with it a high degree of success.

Sixth rusher—Ok, now we\'re getting somewhere, but not without some risk. You\'re only covering with five now, so, you\'re playing no-help man-to-man coverage. This is a real good blitz scheme if you have a deep stable of cornerbacks. In fact, you better either have a deep stable of cornerbacks or get “home� with this blitz. Without either, it may be time for the kick-block team.

Zone-blitz—It is the greatest defensive innovation of recent football history. The Steelers made it famous in their “Blitzburgh� Days. The zone-blitz is a wonderful pass-rush scheme because it offers the ultimate in confusion. In other blitz schemes, linebackers and defensive backs become pass-rushers. In the zone-blitz, defensive linemen become pass-defenders. In a typical zone-blitz play, a linebacker and defensive back may blitz in tandem from the side of a defensive end that drops into coverage. All of a sudden, the offensive tackle has to account for three people, and that\'s just too many. Jail break!

For those with a death wish, there are seven-man and eight-man rush schemes, and you\'ll see them used once in awhile, but, of course, rushing seven or eight means fewer pass-defenders than there are receivers. The quarterback must go down, must go down hard, and most importantly, must go down quickly.

Oh, yeah, there\'s the Chicago Bears\' famous “46 Defense� of the 1980s, but it has been incorrectly perceived as a rush defense. The “46� is really a run-defense that flourished as a blitz scheme because the Bears\' personnel was good enough to sack the quarterback in any scheme. The cornerstone concept of the “46� is that the center and both guards are covered by three defensive linemen, and what covering the three interior blockers does is deny them the ability to trap or pull.

Del Rio and Smith will put their ears back and create some pass-rush schemes. They know the onus is on them to improve what was one of the league\'s worst pass-rushes last season, but it all begins with personnel.

“The great pass-rushers have a desire to get to the quarterback. They have to have outstanding quickness off the ball and good use of hands. The great ones will have two guys assigned to them and still be able to pressure or sack the quarterback,� said Smith, who considers former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary to be the best example of a top pass-rusher. McCrary was always renown for his relentlessness. “They also have the ability to counter what a guy does to them. They don\'t throw their fastball in the first quarter.�

So, really, how important are sacks? Smith believes the answer to that question isn\'t as much about how many, as it is about when.

“The most important sacks are on third down throughout the game, and those in the fourth quarter are huge,� Smith said.

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

GumboBC 06-06-2004 01:07 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
Part 4
Subs are a ‘chess’ match
By Vic Ketchman, senior editor

Jaguars cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas bats a ball away vs. Houston.
They are at the core of every defensive coordinator\'s true worth. They are the game\'s substitution defenses and they represent the “chess� match that is played out by offensive and defensive coordinators in NFL stadiums across the country.

You know the terminology: nickel, dime, quarter, 44 and goal-line. And you may even know exactly what they are. But knowing when to use them isn\'t nearly as difficult a task as identifying the corresponding offensive personnel.

Here\'s an example. It\'s third-and-eight and the play clock is ticking down. All of a sudden three offensive players rush onto the field in a tight group. Who are they? That question must be answered before you can order your defensive sub package.

Get it? Good. We\'ll get back to that third-and-eight play a little later. First, let\'s explore the sub packages available to us.

Nickel—It\'s the father of all substitution defenses. The “nickel defense� can be traced back to the day of Johnny Unitas. It is clearly an advance made necessary by the trend to a more wide-open game that evolved in the 1960s. In “nickel,� a fifth defensive back is inserted and a linebacker is withdrawn, leaving a 4-2-5 alignment. The “nickel� back is usually the team\'s third-best cover man, which is usually the team\'s third cornerback. “Nickel� is used when the offense inserts a third wide receiver.

Dime—A sixth defensive back joins one linebacker, usually the middle linebacker, and four down linemen. There\'s no significance to the name “dime� other than it is the next denomination of currency available. When is the “dime defense� used? When down and distance makes it nearly certain a pass will be ordered. “Dime� is used in that down-and-distance circumstance against three and four-wide receiver sets.

Quarter or Penny—The offense has gone five-wide, which means the backfield is empty and it\'s going to be a pass. Get the linebackers off the field and put in three more defensive backs. Four down, seven in coverage; this is pass-offense against pass-defense and a lot of defensive coordinators will seize the opportunity to blitz a couple of their defensive backs.

Forty-four or Elephant—Now let\'s swing all the way to the other end of the offensive spectrum. These guys like to run the ball. They want to shove it down your throat, so it\'s time for one of the little guys to retreat to the safety of the sideline and replace him with an extra linebacker. Four down linemen, four linebackers, one cornerback and two safeties; it\'s the counter defense to a two-tight end, two-running back offensive set. Stand back! Men at work!

Goal-line—Stopping the run has become most serious now. The offense is still in two tight ends and two running backs, but the field has shrunk and the defense doesn\'t have another yard to spare. This calls for more beef; six down linemen, two linebackers, a cornerback and two safeties. This is maximum run-defense with the bare minimum in pass-coverage capability.

“You want to match the offensive personnel. Put the defenders on the field that match the offensive grouping,� Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of the intent of substitution defenses. “It becomes a chess game. They put out three wide receivers. How are you going to respond; ‘nickel\' or ‘dime\'? Down and distance will dictate that.�

All right, let\'s go back to that third-and-eight play. The down and distance gives you a pretty good idea a pass will be ordered, so you can rule out your “44� and “goal-line� sub packages. You\'re going to be in “nickel,� “dime� or “quarter,� but which one? Obviously, the personnel the offense sends onto the field will dictate your reaction.

You and one of your defensive assistants are responsible for identifying the new offensive personnel, and here they come. There are three of them; two wide receivers and a third-down back. You studied your opponent on film all week and you know this personnel grouping. You even have a name for it, and just as you expect, out of the huddle go the running back, fullback and tight end.

Hey, this is easy stuff. The offense is going four-wide with a running back whose primary skill is as a pass-catcher. The offense is pass-heavy and you call down to your man on the sideline. “Dime,� you say, and two defensive backs immediately rush onto the field and two linebackers rush off.

Way to go! You did a great job.

Hold on, though. It gets a little tougher. Knowing what sub defense to use is easy. There are only a few that apply to the specific down and distance. If the offense makes its substitutions easy to identify and digest, you\'ll never make a mistake. But what if they try to deceive you?

Let\'s go back to that third-and-eight play again. Here come those three guys, but this time two of them stop and turn around and head back to the sideline, and just as they\'re doing that they are passed by two more offensive players rushing onto the field. Get the point?

The “chess� match is such that first the offense substitutes, then you react. To minimize that reaction, the offense is going to do everything possible to compromise and limit your identification time. They\'ll run guys on at the same time or stagger them, and the officials will allow it, as long as there aren\'t more than 11 players in the huddle at any one time.

“The substitution packages are the thing we spend the most time on, making sure we put the best matchup out there on the field,� Smith said.

One of the proud moments for Smith and head coach Jack Del Rio last season was the Jaguars defensive staff\'s performance against Tampa Bay. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is a master of substitution offense.

“I thought in the Tampa game we were able to match Jon. When you\'re playing a team like Tampa and a coach like Jon Gruden, you have to be on the top of your game,� Smith said.

Smith believes the Jaguars can become even more effective in playing the sub defenses this year. “We\'ve upgraded our personnel but, more so, the flexibility is going to come from the familiarity our players have with our scheme. That\'s going to allow us to grow it,� he said.

“I still think it comes down to players making plays. You\'re trying to put the defenders in the best matchup situations. You don\'t want a linebacker on a wide receiver. It\'s not a good matchup,� Smith added, suggesting the science of defensive strategy isn\'t as difficult as the average fan might believe it is.

And it really isn\'t, provided the discipline has been built in during the week. Players have to know exactly what to do and they must react on a second\'s notice. The coaching staff must be organized so that when the orders come down from the coaches\' booth, the chain of command is understood and respected without hesitation.

In the case of the defensive coordinator, the real genius lies in the hours of painstaking study. You must know the opposing offense as you know your own defense. It\'s not enough to know he\'s a tight end. Is he a pass-catching tight end or a blocking tight end? Reaction time must be knee-jerk.

So, do you think you have what it takes? Well, here are some down-and-distance/offensive formation combinations. You call the defense.

Third-and-three/one back, two tight ends, two wide receivers.

Second-and-six/two backs and three wide receivers.

Third-and-10/four wide receivers and one tight end.

Second-and-10/five wide receivers.

Third-and-six/one back, three wide receivers and one tight end.

First-and-goal inside the five-yard line/two backs, two tight ends, one wide receiver.

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

GumboBC 06-06-2004 01:08 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
Part 5

It’s game-plan Tuesday
By Vic Ketchman, senior editor

It\'s late Monday afternoon. You\'re the defensive coordinator of a team coming off a big win the day before and now you\'re facing an even bigger game this Sunday against a division rival.

The players came in today, corrections were made and now they\'re all at home, safely tucked into their family lives, you hope. OK, it\'s time to get to work on this Sunday\'s game plan.

You and your staff repair to your respective offices. The whirl of video machines fill the coaching suite as each coach digs in on his assignment. They\'re closely examining video tape of this Sunday\'s opponent. One coach has been assigned the task of examining the opponent\'s running plays out of base offense. Another is researching runs out of substitution offense. There\'s also short yardage, third-and-long, and on and on and on.

Dinner arrives in the form of warm-to-the-touch styrofoam boxes and somewhere between that off-tackle slant and play-action pass you get your first taste of heartburn. It\'s the same every week; a lot of gas, not much sleep. Oh, well.

Later that evening your staff begins leaving the building. They\'ve done their homework and prepared their reports for tomorrow morning\'s meeting. Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow is game-plan Tuesday all across the league. You won\'t sleep much, but neither will your opponent. In fact, the guy who sleeps the least will probably win the game.

At six a.m. on Tuesday morning you walk into your office, open your briefcase, start your laptop and make quick examination of the to-do list on your grease board and the neat little piles of papers on your desk. Everything\'s in order, so go ahead, get your first cup of coffee.

Later that morning you bring your defensive staff together. First on the agenda is a report from the pro personnel department, which had an advance scout at the opponent\'s most recent game. The scout gives his report and pro personnel also reports on the state of the opponent\'s personnel; injuries, lineup changes, etc.

With that complete, you and your staff report on your tape work from yesterday. Findings are noted in preliminary game-plan discussions and opinion is offered on what might be the best game-plan strategies for defensing this Sunday\'s opponent in the specific situations that were assigned. How do they respond on third-and-two? Do they like to run or pass?

Lunch is 45 minutes long and usually involves more game-plan discussion. Now comes the private time. You\'re the defensive coordinator, it\'s Tuesday afternoon and you gotta put this Sunday\'s game-plan together for the head coach\'s approval later that day.

Tuesday is the players\' off day. When is your off day? You\'re kidding, right?

By styrofoam-box time on Tuesday evening, you\'ve completed your base game plan. You have it all down on paper; the specific fronts, blitzes and coverages your defense will employ, and the head coach nods his approval.

That means you can bring your staff together to finalize preparations for Wednesday\'s practice. You and your staff will decide how to implement in practice the game plan you designed on Tuesday afternoon.

Each of your coaches is now assigned the task of preparing scout-team play cards. What that means is your staff is going to put on paper cards the X and O form of the opponent\'s favorite offensive plays. That\'s right, to be your team\'s defensive coach means you have to also be the opponent\'s offensive coach.

In practice tomorrow the coach who is responsible for the offensive plays that correspond with the specific defense you\'re practicing will present those play cards to the scout team for execution. Preparing those cards is a tedious job, but at midnight on Tuesday you leave the building with thoughts of tomorrow morning\'s team meeting, at which the game plan will be presented to the players.

“Tuesday and Wednesday are the days you have to get your game plan set,� Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “Your hopes are you don\'t have to make any changes to it, but if there are areas of concern as we watch our practice tapes, there are occasions when we do make changes.�

Yeah, you might find out that a specific coverage you want to use isn\'t something your players do especially well. You better tear out that page of the game plan.

“We analyze what our opponents do and then we\'re able to take from our catalogue of stunts, fronts and coverages what we feel are the best to defense what the other team does. The most important thing of game-planning is making sure you have practiced and put your players in the calls you\'ll run on Sunday. You can\'t prepare them for everything that occurs, but you have to make sure you\'ve exposed the players to the offensive plays and the offensive formations against which you\'ll call the defenses,� Smith added. “You have to analyze your scripting and make sure you have the right percentage of personnel groupings you plan on seeing. The toughest thing of my job is to make sure we pull all of this together in practice.�

By week\'s end, you\'re back on a more respectable sleep schedule. You\'re eating dinner at home and the dog is glad to see you again. But will he feel that way after the game?

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

GumboBC 06-06-2004 05:27 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
It\'s been said many times on here that if teams run less on our defense this year that they will pass more and our pass defense will suffer. But, looking at the stats for the Jaguars rush and pass defense from 2002 to 2003, you will notice that even though teams rushed much less on the Jags defense in 2003 than 2002 that they actually threw the ball LESS too.

How\'s that possible? Because teams weren\'t able to pick up first downs rushing the ball and their offense was quickly off the field and weren\'t able to pass the ball. Or, run for that matter. And they achieved all that without elite cornerbacks. As a matter of fact, Jason Craft was their starting CB for 6-games until he got injured.

They also maintained their 9th ranking in pass defense too.

Pass defense
Jacksonville 16 510 31.9 303 59.4 3251 203.2 23 15 24 134 -2003 Rank 9th
Jacksonville 16 519 32.4 314 60.5 3264 204.0 19 14 36 224 -2002 Rank 9th

Rush Defense
Jacksonville 16 442 27.6 1406 3.2 87.9 12 84 5 - 2003 Rank 2nd
Jacksonville 16 487 30.4 2071 4.3 129.4 14 112 7 -2002 Rank 25th

Rush Defense Saints
New Orleans 16 480 30.0 2241 4.7 140.1 12 109 16 - 2003 Rank -27

Pass Defense Saints
New Orleans 16 485 30.3 264 54.4 2993 187.1 20 14 32 171- 2003 Rank 8th

[Edited on 6/6/2004 by GumboBC]

WhoDat 06-06-2004 10:59 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5
Question: Let\'s say our run defense does improve this year. Let\'s say by the 4th game of the year the Saints run defense is about 10th in the league and stays that way all year. Where would you guess the pass defense would end up ranked at year\'s end?

To me, our high pass defense ranking was a result, in large part, of our poor run defense. Maybe not entirely, but a lot. I think we will be better at pressuring the QB this season, which is important to the pass defense. I also think that teams will hopefully be in more 3rd and 7 situations as compared to 3rd and 1. Still, when teams needed to pass on us last year, they generally could. If our run defense truly improves and gets to be around the top ten in the league, I\'d look for the pass defense to falter even with an improved rush. If the run D gets better, I\'d expect to see a lot of teams throw on first down against us. I would.

SaintFanInATLHELL 06-06-2004 01:56 PM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5

Question: Let\'s say our run defense does improve this year. Let\'s say by the 4th game of the year the Saints run defense is about 10th in the league and stays that way all year. Where would you guess the pass defense would end up ranked at year\'s end?
Better than it was last year. Say top half of the NFC.


To me, our high pass defense ranking was a result, in large part, of our poor run defense. Maybe not entirely, but a lot. I think we will be better at pressuring the QB this season, which is important to the pass defense.
Important? Critical! The pass rush is going to be the defensing mechansim for dictating the pasing game.
But we have to be able to do it on our terms. That means stopping the run. 3rd and 2 is a completely different down and distance than 3rd and 7, especially with Grant, Howard, and potentially Smith coming off the edge.


I also think that teams will hopefully be in more 3rd and 7 situations as compared to 3rd and 1.
BINGO! But you have to stop the run for that to happen.


Still, when teams needed to pass on us last year, they generally could. If our run defense truly improves and gets to be around the top ten in the league, I\'d look for the pass defense to falter even with an improved rush.
I think you\'re missing something here. An improved rush in better down and distance situations for the defense will tend to get into the QBs head The rush will make the QB more uncomfortable, which will lead to decreased performance. A QB on 3rd and 8 knowing that he\'s going to be crushed will react differently than one on 2nd and 2 knowing he has the whole playbook available to him. A better rush will force offenses to max protect.. So less receivers will be in the pattern.

Stopping the run and rushing the QB will improve the passing defense without a doubt.


If the run D gets better, I\'d expect to see a lot of teams throw on first down against us. I would.
No doubt.The defense will need to scheme so that they win the majority of those 1st down passing battles.

But it still starts with winning the run game 7 on 7. If the offense can dictate that you bring the 8th guy into the box, then they\'ve already won.


GumboBC 06-06-2004 02:22 PM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5

I\'m glad you got involved in this debate. I have a few questions for you and I\'d like your honest opinion. I\'m in no way suggesting we have an elite group of corners, but I think they can get the job done much like the Panthers were able to ride their defensive line to the super bowl despite the fact that they had a weak secondary. And their secondary was weak. As a matter of fact they used a 1st round pick in the draft this year to address it.

So, you think even with a great pass rush that our pass defense will get abused?

First things first. Let\'s talk about our 2 starting CBs first. Craft and Fred Thomas. Which one do you feel won\'t be able to defend adequetly against the pass? And why?

Maybe you think it\'s our 3rd and 4th cornerbacks who will get beaten when teams \"spread\" our defense out? If so, just remember the year 2000 when we beat the Rams , who were the highest scoring passing offense, 2 out of 3 times because our pass rush was dominanting. And who were our cornerbacks then? How were we able to do that?

I think you are down-playing the importance of a pass rush greatly?

WhoDat 06-07-2004 11:33 AM

Defense 101 - Part 1,2,3,4,5

I think you\'re missing something here. An improved rush in better down and distance situations for the defense will tend to get into the QBs head The rush will make the QB more uncomfortable, which will lead to decreased performance. A QB on 3rd and 8 knowing that he\'s going to be crushed will react differently than one on 2nd and 2 knowing he has the whole playbook available to him. A better rush will force offenses to max protect.. So less receivers will be in the pattern.
There is no doubt that down and distance play a role in what a team can run. Further, a QB\'s psychology throughout the game is also important.

There is one key point that is being missed: You and Billy both are assuming A) a great run defense (which is fine b/c I said that we should assume that in my previous post) and B) a great pass rush.

I do not realistically assume either. For starters, I have some serious questions about our run defense getting any better. But let\'s stay on course and pretend that they do. That still doesn\'t mean great pass rush.

You two seem to believe that b/c we have players capable of rushing the passer that we will do that successfully as a team. I don\'t. Sure, we will get more pressure on opposing QBs. However, Venturi\'s read and react system is not conducive to aggressive play. Additionally, if our offense is anywhere near as explosive as it can be AND our run defense is improved, teams will not be content to sit on the ball and try to ground it out on the ground. We WILL see more spread. We WILL see more passes.

That being said, I am not confident in our secondary. Thomas and Craft both seem like solid number 2s to me, but neither is a number one corner. Thomas is getting older, slower, and has always been undersized. Do you like Thomas on any of the 50 or so 6-4 WRs who can run a sub 4.5 40? I don\'t.

Craft is an unknown so unti lI see him play I cannot speak to it. To suggest that he IS or IS NOT capable without any prior knowledge is irresponsible. I\'ll suffice it to say that I am skeptical of a guy relaeased by a team who rebuilt their secondary (with a great defensive mind running their ship) who also happens to be coming off an injury.

The real problem begins when you add Ambrose or Fahkir Brown in the mix. You want Ambrose matching up with a guy like Henderson? How about Brown on a guy with M Lewis\' speed or Gardner\'s talent? Crowell\'s?

Time will tell, but I\'ll say this - if our run defense gets into and stays in the top 10, I will look for our secondary to get burned with greater frequency. Some of us seem to have short-term memory... b/c I remember the Dome Patrol allowing less than 50 yards rushing, picking up 6 sacks, and still allowing first down after first down on 3rd and 8 regularly... or maybe we should just think back two years ago...

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